A Friend in the Dark follows the twists and turns of the unlikely friendship between Victor, the class fool, and Marie, the smartest girl in the year. Marie is a musical prodigy, excellent at everything she does. It’s no give-away to say here that she is losing her sight—this reveal is written on the front of the book, so the pace rather flags as the reader waits for this drama to unfold.
Victor’s narrative is rather over-long and drawn out, and what might otherwise have been condensed into a really charming book about friendship, becomes instead a rather protracted wade through Victor’s every last thought. By exploring Victor’s interior world, Pascal Ruter tries to present us with a realistic portrait of a teenage boy, but sadly Victor’s narrative tone is that same jaded cynicism too many authors give to teenage narrators. Victor sounds like too many moaning others, and the result makes for a rather dull read. A fiercer editor would have prioritised action over Victor’s endless punning and dry wit, and given more time to a visually stimulating depiction of the developing emotional bonds between Marie and Victor. Unfortunately, the wit is just not funny enough to really lift this book out of its excess of words. When the charming end does come, it’s a little too late, and the reader has struggled too long to reach the moving finale.